Beckie Perkins: A Deaf Mother’s Perspective on Bilingual Education

I first learned about Cued Speech when I met with Amy Crumrine when she was working in Rochester, NY and we were living there at that time.  She shared information with me on Cued Speech/cued English.  I had that in my head for a while.  I am Deaf myself and use ASL, and so my daughter’s home and first language was ASL.  My daughter, Molly, first started attending a D/HH program in Minnesota in first grade after first attending kindergarten at a day program which uses ASL.  I had first visited the program where it was explained how Cued English using Cued Speech, as well as ASL, would be incorporated as languages of instruction into Molly’s school day.   I agreed, as I wanted to see how that would help Molly grow as a student and as a person.  I have to say it was one beautiful experience!

When Molly attended the elementary school D/HH Program, she first had several classes in the D/HH self-contained classroom where she was first exposed to English through cued English, and also had some classes in the mainstream with a sign language interpreter.  As she quickly learned cued English and her language and reading levels became on grade-level with her peers who were hearing, she became fully mainstreamed.  In the beginning she used a certified cued language transliterator who also knew ASL and was a certified sign language interpreter.  Once Molly became fluent with cued English, it was one smooth ride.  She preferred and was provided a cued language transliterator the first half of the school day and a sign language interpreter afternoons “for balance” (Molly’s preference and words).  Molly became a fluent cuer herself, which accelerated when she later had a cued language transliterator who did not know how to sign.  She was an active participant in her mainstream classes, and she also was in the school’s spelling bee, where she was able to participate easily since the words were cued to her and not fingerspelled.  Molly also used ASL when she was not in class in other parts of her school day and at home.  In junior high school, she went to the state residential deaf school that uses ASL.  Molly was mainstreamed for part of the time at a Middle and High School.  She also took college classes during her junior year of high school.  

Molly’s reading and writing skills soared after being exposed to cued English.  I found the experience fascinating, actually.  I recently asked Molly what she thought about cued English and how did it help her?  She said it helped her differentiate words, especially phonemes and the like, for example, ‘ their’ and ‘there.’  You don’t say we are ‘their’ now which should be we are ‘there’ now.  She said it helped her decide which words to use in her writing.  Cued English is like a visual phoneme approach.

Beckie and Molly

Molly graduated from Gallaudet with a BS in sociology and a minor in Communications.  She is still living in Washington, DC, working and wants to go back to school in a year to get her masters.  She played college volleyball for four years.  She coached two years of high school volleyball at MSSD.  She enjoys running and working out and traveling the globe when she can.

I recently talked with Molly about what recommendations or advice she had for new parents of children who are D/HH.  She said she would recommend parents to try different avenues such as Cued English but choose an appropriate setting like the D/HH program because when they started with Molly, they started off slowly making sure she was comfortable with it.  Once she became comfortable, she soared!!   I would highly recommend parents of deaf/HH/deaf blind to check out Cued English (and all of your options!) as early as possible. I’m so grateful that Molly started young.  Some kids may start off slowly and then pick up the pace.  Every child is different, so be patient.  

I was fortunate enough to attend Cued English/Speech camp in Minnesota which allowed me to meet other parents and children that used Cued English.  I just wish I had kept going with it, which I think would have helped me as well!  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *